There’s no question that the game of the week in college football this weekend is the showdown between the no. 3 Clemson Tigers and the no. 5 Georgia Bulldogs. The winner will get a leg up in the College Football Playoff race, while the loser will have no margin for error the rest of the way. On a neutral field in Charlotte, the Tigers are the 3-point favorites, with the over/under for the game set at 50.5 points.
Clemson is no doubt disappointed at losing in the CFP semifinals last season, meaning it’s been back-to-back seasons since they won a national championship. Of course, the Tigers have also been a top-5 team for six straight seasons, losing just three regular-season games during that stretch. In other words, Clemson expects to win this game on its way to another title.
On the other hand, Kirby Smart has taken Georgia to nearly the same level. The Bulldogs are 44-9 over the last four seasons and have played in the SEC title game in three of the last four years. However, the Bulldogs know that they would need to run the table in the SEC if they lose this game, giving Georgia little margin for error.
JT Drives the Bus
The Georgia Bulldogs found their answer at quarterback midway through the 2020 season with JT Daniels, helping to raise expectations for 2021. Georgia averaged better than eight points more per game after Daniels took over last the starter last year. With a backfield that’s once again loaded, there are few concerns about the Georgia offense ahead of the season.
Naturally, the same can be said of the Georgia defense, which shouldn’t experience much of a drop-off from last season. Defensive lineman Jordan Davis leads what should be a stout defensive line. If the Bulldogs have a weakness, it could be at cornerback, although Clemson transfer Derion Kendrick will help immediately as he faces his old team to begin the season.
The Apprentice Takes Over
For the Clemson Tigers, all eyes are on DJ Uiagalelei, who takes over at quarterback from Trevor Lawrence. Uiagalelei gave a strong account of himself in a road start against Notre Dame last season, albeit in a loss, so he looks ready to lead the Clemson offense and play in a game like this. However, the Tigers didn’t have an elite rushing attack last season and no longer have Travis Etienne, which is a potential concern heading into the season opener.
However, the Clemson defense should be ready to make up for any early-season struggles from the offense. The Tigers probably have the best defensive line in the country, not to mention a future NFL player at linebacker in James Skalski. Of course, with Kendrick leaving and Clemson getting burned by Ohio State in last year’s Playoff, there are some concerns about the secondary.
Nothing to Separate
With no preseason to even get a glimpse of these teams, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen. But Clemson has been the better program over the last handful of years and has recruited at a slightly higher level. That’s enough to take a chance on the Tigers to win and cover on Saturday night.
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